The Ig Nobel Prizes: Celebrating Unconventional Achievements in Science

The Ig Nobel Prizes: Celebrating Unconventional Achievements in Science

A virtual celebration of unusual achievements that make people laugh and think

Every year, while the world eagerly awaits the announcement of the Nobel Prize winners, another prestigious yet unconventional award ceremony takes place in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Ig Nobel Prizes, presented by the editors of the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, honor achievements that provoke laughter and contemplation. This year’s ceremony, held virtually due to the ongoing pandemic, continued the tradition of celebrating unusual scientific accomplishments. From licking rocks to re-animating dead spiders, the Ig Nobel Prizes once again showcased the incredible diversity and ingenuity of scientific exploration.

Licking Rocks: The Curious Fascination of Scientists

One of the Ig Nobel Prize winners this year explored the peculiar phenomenon of scientists licking rocks. Geologists have long been known to engage in this unusual practice, and the award-winning team sought to understand why. Their research revealed that the act of licking rocks can provide valuable sensory information, helping scientists identify minerals and gain insights into geological formations. While seemingly bizarre, this study sheds light on the unique ways in which scientists interact with their subjects.

Re-Animating Dead Spiders: Nature’s Mechanical Gripping Tools

Another Ig Nobel Prize was awarded to a team of researchers who successfully re-animated dead spiders to use as mechanical gripping tools. By carefully manipulating the muscles of deceased spiders, the scientists were able to create a novel and efficient gripping mechanism. This achievement not only demonstrates the incredible adaptability of nature but also offers potential applications in fields such as robotics and engineering.

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Counting Nose Hairs: The Symmetry of Nostril Hair Distribution

In a quest to explore the symmetry of nostril hair distribution, a group of researchers turned to cadavers for their investigation. By meticulously counting the number of hairs in each nostril of multiple subjects, the team discovered that there is, in fact, an equal number of hairs in each nostril for the majority of individuals. This seemingly trivial study highlights the meticulous attention to detail that scientists employ in their pursuit of knowledge.

The Virtual Ig Nobel Awards: Laughter and Participation

While the traditional raucous ceremony in Harvard’s Sanders Theater was replaced by a virtual webcast this year, the spirit of the Ig Nobel Awards remained intact. From flying paper airplanes to the participation of real Nobel Laureates, the virtual ceremony retained the elements that make the Ig Nobel Prizes a unique and entertaining event. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the organizers successfully adapted to the circumstances, ensuring that the celebration of unconventional science continued.


The Ig Nobel Prizes once again brought attention to the unconventional and thought-provoking achievements in the world of science. From the seemingly absurd act of licking rocks to the re-animation of dead spiders, these awards challenge our perceptions and spark curiosity. While the Ig Nobel Prizes may not carry the same prestige as the Nobel Prizes, they serve as a reminder that science is not always a serious endeavor but can also be filled with humor and wonder. As we celebrate these unusual accomplishments, we are reminded of the importance of embracing creativity, curiosity, and a willingness to explore the unknown.

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